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February 18, 2019 at 04:24 PM EST
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It’s perhaps the scariest of all Halloween urban legends — the candy bar with poison, a needle, or a razor blade in it.

In his new novel Blood Sugar, author Daniel Kraus turns that premise into a life-or-death thriller about a neighborhood outcast who recruits three kids to help him unleash his twisted plan for vengeance.

“Everyone’s sort of the villain,” Kraus says. “There is the character whose plan it is, to put poison and drugs and sharp objects in the candy. He’s also, perhaps, the most sympathetic character in the book.”

The novel will be released Oct. 8 by Hard Case Crime, which often crafts a retro pulp fiction image for its covers. This one features a pin-up calendar scattered with treats… as well as the deadly tricks the perpetrators plan to embed in them.

Hard Case Crime

“It fit really perfectly,” says Kraus, whose other credits include the novel Rotters,  the Death and Life of Zebulon Finch series, and the Oscar-winning The Shape of Water. “There’s a section in the book where they’re working on the candies and they’re doing it on top of this calendar, that’s showing it’s Oct. 31.”

The original painting is by artist Paul Mann, whose pop culture posters and other works can be seen here.

Blood Sugar is told from the perspective of the three kids who join the murderer’s deadly scheme. “That was a total pleasure to do. Nothing’s more fun for me than writing dialogue,” Kraus says. “This book is basically 200 some pages of dialogue.”

While tainted Halloween candy is largely a myth, the fear itself has been enduring. “I remember being a kid and that was on everyone’s mind, not just the kids but the parents,” the author says. “I remember coming in from trick-or-treating once, and there was some sort of chocolate, something homemade. There was some sort of white matter sprinkled on them. I remember so vividly my mom taking those out and throwing them away.”

An almost scarier question is: Why hasn’t a homicidal person ever actually tried it?

“Even if it’s never happened, it’d be so easy. It’s terrifyingly easy,” Kraus says. “When else do you encourage children to go knock on strangers’ doors? I mean, there’s something about it that goes against every rational thought of a civilized society.”

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